Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022
Free Speech Ireland would like to establish our position on the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 and raise our concerns over the risk that this bill poses to people’s right to freedom of expression.
We are concerned that ill-defined and unclear aspects of the bill will result in limitations being placed on people’s right to freedom of expression and that this is an unproductive use of Garda resources.
We would like to draw the attention of Irish legislators to Sections 7 through 11 in particular.
Establishes that a person may be found guilty of an offence if the person “communicates material to the public or a section of the public” .
This not only opens an individual to prosecution for personal statements made, but also for the sharing of content on social media, even if published by another user in a separate country or jurisdiction.
Part 3 of this section states that “it shall be a defence to prove that the material concerned or, insofar as appropriate,” if the contribution is considered “genuine” or “reasonable”.
These are vague and subjective criteria that may see an individual fined or imprisoned for up to 5 years.
Broadly covers the communication of material relating to genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.
Similarly however, Section 8 fails to make provisions for the sharing of material published by another individual or entity.
It opens a person to prosecution for sharing of historical articles or news items that may not reflect the contemporary views of Irish society.
Furthermore this could also affect the communication of material from a foreign culture or country where world views may differ to our own.
Under this section a person may be found guilty irrespective of whether communication of material or behaviour was successful in inciting another person to violence or hatred. This would penalise individuals as a result of gross speculation.
The possession of material which is not considered “reasonable” or a “genuine contribution” shall be an offence. As with Section 7, these are subjective criteria and are deeply concerning as the bill does not establish what is considered a “reasonable” or “genuine contribution”. It is vital that lawful expression is not restricted by the Government.
There is a concerning limited and ill-defined “Protection Of Freedom Of Expression” afforded by the bill in Section 11.
This section is no more than four lines, and does not establish clear protections for Freedom of Speech.
We recommend that legislators reject the bill in its current form. Irish legislators should take steps to expand protections against harassment rather than broadly restrict the speech of all individuals.